Norwegian Foreign Minister Børge Brende was hailing a meeting of more than 60 nations in Brussels on Wednesday as a clear boost for the battle against the Islamic extremist group IS in Iraq and Syria. Norway is already part of a US-led coalition fighting IS.
“This sends a strong signal, and is the beginning of an expansion (of the fight against IS),” Brende told Norwegian reporters in Brussels, the day after he attended a NATO ministerial meeting among all 28 NATO members.
On Wednesday, representatives of 62 countries were holding a meeting that was not officially backed by NATO but held in a stripped-down conference room on the NATO compound. Brende called the meeting “historic,” though, as it gathered “so many coalition partners who will organize against the extremist organization IS.”
NATO’s Norwegian secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, was also meeting with Iraq’s new prime minister, Haidar al-Abadi, who was expected to ask for assistance in fending off the brutal extremists, known for chopping off the heads or otherwise executing those who disagree with them or don’t practice a strict-enough brand of Islam. Many NATO members and other countries are expected to respond with offers to help train Iraqi soldiers as coalition partners have in Kurdistan.
The US and partners in the Middle East, meanwhile, have carried out more than 1,000 air attacks both in Iraq and Syria in recent months. Norway has committed 120 soldiers to help train Iraqi forces.